All posts by fodderfarm

Yacon Syrup

A while ago we were given a little 250ml jar of yacon syrup. The price on the lid was $19.50, but as its best before date was passed we were given it for free with our bulk food shopping. It was thick and gooey, with a strong molassery taste. I wasnt that impressed but tried it in a few recipes.

Later on we were given a yacon plant, which sat in its pot for a year waiting to be planted. Finally last spring we had a place for to go in the ground. It grew to about 1.5 metres tall, with lovely big leaves and little yellow flowers. Generally you harvest them after the first frost, but as our frosts this year ( have only had a couple so far) have been pretty mild ours is still growing and flowering in June. But a friend down the road has some and hers have died down, so we were given a bucketful to try. I’m not really a fan of them fresh, though the crispy juicy texture is quite nice. But we like to experiment and even though we eat low carb a little bit of sweetness is nice occasionally. Even better is knowing how to make your own homegrown (or neighbour grown) and home made natural sweeteners.

Making Yacon Syrup.

We washed the yacon tubers, peeled them and cut them into long pieces which would fit into the hand mincer.

The tubers are very crisp and juicy so mincing was an easy task, but you could use a food processor instead.

Mincing the yacon

Once minced the pulp was tipped into a colander lined with cheese cloth, over a pot. We allowed the juice to drain, then gathered up the cloth and squeezed the pulp to get all the juice out, twisting the cloth into a tight ball.

The juice was brought to the boil and then simmered on the woodstove for most of the day. Any scum that formed on the surface was removed.

Once it had reduced to a fragrant syrup we removed it from the heat and poured the syrup through a fine sieve into a sterilised hot glass jar.

There was a small amount of ‘debris’ left in the sieve, if you were doing a larger amount this could probably be saved for baking etc.

The finished syrup

From 2.66kg of fresh yacon, we ended up with 208g of syrup. I did notice some condensation it the jar as it cooled, so we probably should have reduced the syrup a bit more, which would have resulted in a lower yield. However we will store it in the fridge so the moisture content should not be an issue.

We were impressed with the flavour, kind of like a mild golden syrup. certainly not as thick and molassery as the commercial jar we were given, which is another reason why we think it may not have been reduced enough. But our syrup was much nicer tasting than the commercial product, we are not sure whether that was due to it being fresher, runnier or just because homemade often tastes better!

Would we make it again? Definitely. The process was easy and once its on the stove its just, check it occasionally, skim it if needed and wait for it to thicken.

Growing Yacon.

Yacons produce the edible tubers and smaller reddish rhizomes, its the rhyzomes which you need to grow the plant or a whole ‘crown’ which is the rhizomes attached to the plant base. As Yacon are frost tender wait till all frost have passed before planting or plant in a frost free area. Otherwise they are a very easy care plant, resonably well drained soil and plenty of compost and mulch should ensure a good crop. But give them a bit of room as they can get to 2m tall, 1 metre spacings are often recommended. Harvest by digging up the whole plant after frosts and when the plant dies down for maximum sweetness. You can set aside the rhizomes or crowns, which can be kept in a paper bag in a dark place or potted up in the greenhouse ready for replanting once the frost have finished, though in warmer areas you can replant and cover mulch the crown over winter.

Yacon crown

The edible tubers should be brushed off without damaging the skin, and air dried, before laying them in a cardboard box with newspaper between the layers and over the top. Store in a cool dark place for about 3 months, they can go wrinkly but are still edible.

Yacon can be roasted or boiled, used in stews and casseroles or in salads, juiced or used in smoothies. It has been said to treat it like a juicy, crunchy potato or a mild apple. The leaves are also apparently edible used like spinach or to wrap food and also as a tea. Yacon is considered to be good stock fodder, both the leaves and the tubers, and the plant is thought to encourage healthy bacteria both in the soil and in the human gut.

An interesting plant with many uses and easy to grow, this year I think we will devote a whole garden bed to it!

Harvested yacon tubers.

A Plague of Pestilence

Warning story contains mentions of foul putrid dead rodents. 

I opened the shed door at pig and chook feeding time, startling sleek glossy fat rat. Up the wall it shot, its nimbleness belying its bulk and into the shed rubble stacked high upon the shelf. Shudder. The Other Half said ‘we must lay some bait….’ 

Another day and the maize bag was chewed, spilling its contents over the floor. The Other Half said ‘we must lay some bait…’ 

The next day we lifted the cover on the fermented maize in its ½ blue barrel. I gagged at the sight of a drowned rat, floating spread eagled on the foamy surface. Fishing it from its watery grave on a long handled spade I gingerly carried it out and biffed it over the fence, far, far away. 

The Other Half laid some bait. 

With bait stations everywhere it was looking good. Bait all gone the first night and all gone the next. Partly gone by the third morning, we were making progress. 

But then the STINK came…. 

A horrible sweet dead animal stench. We searched for the bodies and followed the smells; a rat was disposed of in a hole in the ground. But it seems there was more to be found… 

As I hung out the washing a smell wafted up, gagging I searched through the grass and comfrey to find a fat still body against the fence. Bloat had set in and any movement released more of the fetid stench into the air. I fetched the old shovel and dug a small hole nearby, retching, I gently slid the shovel underneath. A shove and a slide it was into the hole and covered with dirt. But the smell hung in the air like a smothering cloak as I barfed into the grass at the side of the path. 

Theres a lot I can handle, a lot I can do, but maggots and rotting flesh seriously make me ralph! 

But there was a smell in the driveway and a smell in the shed. Smell under the deck and in the garden… and we had visitors coming. 

Photo by Vicky Thorley on Pexels.com

Luckily by the next day we had found the one in the shed and the deck one had faded. So outside we sat in the rustic back courtyard, cuppas and cake in the sun. Talks about gardens, solar power, living of the land and of course politics. 

When what should I smell but a waft of the dead, of foul rotting beast and there in the corner lay the biggest one yet! A long-handled shovel and apologies needed as I gently scooped up the carcass from its paved grave. I carried it far, so far away and flung it still further over the bank. But the malodorous stench was still wafted in the air, so a quick bucket slosh to rinse the whole spot and wash the foulness away. Phew back to relaxing and enjoying the day, which went along quite well with no more putrid smells. 

But then a day or so later came the flies… We’d had some pesky little beasts, but suddenly numbers swelled to epic proportions!  We try to be natural with the use of no sprays. So up went the fly strips and on went the vinegar, fly swats and hand-held fly zappers all put to the test. But these flys were relentless, the strips just filled up and then we ran out!!! ‘I must have some spray; these little buggers must go!’ said The Other Half. But the first spray was scented and worse than the flies! The whole house reeked of some brain numbing scent and the flies just kept on coming. 

Photo by Vijay Putra on Pexels.com

The next can was better ‘non scented’ it said, but its success rate was just as bad as the first and the flies just kept on coming. 

More strips were hung, over and over, at least the buzzy b#*tards would die on those. Then a chance find under the sink, a spray can left by the previous owners, I think. Pyrethrum ingredients, natural to a point, but it knocked those buggers down dead and extinct. 

A spray on the window sills, a few blasts through the house and numbers were down, the relief was so great. Fresh fly strips went up and lasted much more than just one day, we were finally free of the horrible fly plague. 

But it seemed the smell in the shed had not been just one rodent. I pulled out some frost cloth to be assailed afresh by the pungent stench of partly dehydrated rat, all fluff and dry carcass entangled in the now smelly folds. Fresh gagging ensued and a hastily washed cloth was flung on the lawn, devoid of its mummy. (Which, by the way I must confess, was left on the shelf for someone else to deal with…) 

Two more small mummies were swept from under the freezer to lie on the concrete, their empty eye sockets staring, creeping me out and squeamish for sure, somebody else can deal with those two. I am Done!!! 

Low-carb Pizza Base

We have tried a lot of different low-carb pizza base recipes, most of them just didn’t cut it for us. Usually, they were not bread like and you couldn’t really pick up the pizza to eat it. This one is the best we have come up with so far. Plus, you can actually swap out the courgette or marrow for Beauregard kumara etc (no need to squeeze moisture out) So pretty flexible for whatever you have in the garden. 

Low-carb Pizza Base recipe 

  • 1 large courgette or piece of marrow, grated and liquid squeezed out (put in a cloth and twist until most of the moisture is gone) 
  • ½ cup psyllium husk 
  • 1 cup almond flour (or other seed or nut flour) 
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups grated cheese 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Preheat oven to 180° C 

Mix courgette, cheese and dry ingredients together. 

Beat eggs and water together, then add to dry ingredients. 

Mix well. 

Line two baking trays with baking paper. 

Put half mixture on each tray and press out to about 5ml or less thick. 

You should end up with two large pizza bases. 

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and fully cooked. 

Top with your favourite toppings and pop back in the oven for about another 20 minutes. 

Pizza base cooked and ready for toppings

Courgette or Marrow Flour.

I saw this method on an American homesteading site, she went on about how great it was and that it could be used as a replacement for coconut flour. As we can’t grow coconuts here, but usually have plenty of courgettes and marrows, I thought this could be good…  

The directions were easy enough, grate the courgette, spread on trays and dehydrate till very dry, then grind into flour. I started with 2773g of marrow, peeled, deseeded and grated it was down to 1716g. I decided to put it in a cloth and squeeze out any extra moisture before dehydrating, courgettes are mostly water so this should speed up the dehydrating time. Then spread it on trays to dehydrate… 

Courgettes growing in our garden

Hours later and I still had a wettish mass. Because we are off grid on solar power and with it getting later in the day, I decided to put some in the woodstove oven, which was still a bit too hot and dried it too crispy. The other trays were still not dry so popped it all in the oven. Was getting a bit frustrated with it by this time, especially when I got busy elsewhere and dried it to brown and crispy… I removed all the fiddly tiny dried bits and put the moist stuff back into to dry some more.  

Finally it was dry and I could grind it up in the blender to a reasonably flour like texture and it was weighed in at 64g, maybe ½ a cup of flour. All that time and effort for ½ a cup of flour. If you were paying for the power to dehydrate the courgette on top of the time taken, it just doesn’t seem worth it to me.  

Thinly sliced marrow for dehydrating

I tried again a few days later, with thin slices of marrow, this was actually easier and the drying time seemed similar. I think if we had the solar dehydrator up and running or drying racks above the woodstove then this would be the way to go with dehydrating courgettes or marrows, as due to their high-water content the drying does take a lot of time. But at least by leaving it in slices I avoided all the fiddliness that came with the grated courgette. 

I had pretty much decided that we would just use the courgettes and marrows without dehydrating, as they are actually a useful baking ingredient when used fresh. From chocolate cakes to fritters and pizza bases, grated courgette has many uses. Mature marrows can be stored for several months and used in the same way as courgettes. But then I tried baking a marrow flour chocolate cake… Wow! it really is just as good as coconut flour and with no coconut flavour or the odd texture that coconut can have, so better than coconut flour!  Plus you only need 1/2 a cup of flour to bake a cake.

So next season (fed all the marrows to the pigs in annoyance and forgot about my pizza bases!! oops) we will sort a better drying system and try again. But just thinking about it we do still have Austrian oilseed pumpkins to deseed, hmmm… 

Marrow flour chocolate cake

Seed Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Sunflower seeds 
  • ½ cup Pumpkin seeds (quantities of sunflower and pumpkin seeds can altered, as long as they equal 1.5 cups)
  • ¼ cup  Sesame seeds 
  • ½ cup Linseed (flaxseed) and/or Chia seed (I usually do 1/4 cup each)
  • ½ tsp  Salt 
  • 1 cup  Water 
  • 1 serving sea salt, to sprinkle 

Directions 

Soak sunflower and pumpkin seeds overnight. This reduces phytic acid which makes seeds easier to digest. 

Heat oven to 170C. Rinse and drain sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Add all the seeds and the salt in a bowl, pour in water and mix to combine. Leave for 15 minutes for the flax seeds to soften and bind everything. At this stage you can leave seeds whole or blend to a rough paste (Which is what we do) 

Tip out on to a baking paper-lined oven tray and spread out as thin as possible (around 4mm thick) and sprinkle with some sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and slice into crackers, then return to the oven to cook for another 20-30 minutes until crisp and golden. If you find the outer crackers are cooking faster, you can remove them when ready and put the rest back in the oven to finish cooking. Sometimes depending on the oven, it is necessary to flip the crackers to cook the bottom evenly. Remove to a rack to cool then store in an airtight container. 

Variations  

Cracked pepper 

Finely chopped rosemary and crushed garlic  

Poppy seed